Steve and Jody Noble-Choder took the big jump last summer as they turned from pursuing regular 9-to-5 jobs to running their own bed and breakfast. One peculiarity? It floats.
Hitting the Pittsburgh scene are Namaste and Boho, two fantastically remodeled houseboats that bring the cadence of living on the water to classically land-bound establishments.
Bed and breakfasts have a notoriously “homey” feel that welcomes any traveler to a region in a way that often reflects the surroundings. Since Pittsburgh is a city built on the backs of three rivers, what better way to show off the city’s rhythm of life than by offering a houseboat bed and breakfast?
Over the past decade-and-a-half, the city has looked past the industrial use of its rivers and instead set to unleash the region’s beauty with gorgeous riverfront bike trails and parks.
“Pittsburghers have recognized the tremendous asset our rivers offer to our region,” explains Jody.
She and her husband, Steve, had moved to their home on the Allegheny River in 2001 and talked about starting a Pittsburgh houseboat community since they stepped through the front door.
Jody explains, “We thought that Pittsburghers would enjoy connecting to the rivers in a new way.”
So they went out and bought a 1973 42-foot Gibson and a 1972 36-foot Nautaline.
The bed and breakfast houseboat idea was designed to complement Choderwood, their event venue. The name is a pairing of Choder and Linwood, a camp Steve and his cousin used to go to as kids. When they were hanging out at the pool at their new and very green Pittsburgh property, his cousin exclaimed, “Wow, this is like when we would go to Camp Linwood! Oh, it’s Choderwood!”
The Choders thought it was a good joke—good enough to name the event venue once it was fully established.
Experience Is Overrated
After they bought their houseboats, the Choders popped their knuckles for some serious cosmetic remodeling. Enter the really inspirational part of the story—Jody and Steve have a thing for boats but neither has owned or piloted a houseboat before! This was a bigger jump than just a job swap for the Choders.
While they started working on their houseboats out on the water at a local marina that spring, everyone else started showing up to get a jump on their own boats. The Choders struck up a conversation with the guy who owned the houseboat next to them and revealed what they were up to. Incredulous, he said, “Let me get this straight: you bought two houseboats when you don’t know anything about houseboats?”
And the Choders excitedly replied, “Yeah! What’s wrong with that?”
In hindsight, Jody has to laugh.
“You know, sometimes I think you’re better off not knowing anything—or if you know too much, you wouldn’t do it,” she reminisces. Jody shows no regret when she adds, “We would do it again even in retrospect.”
The remodeling was a fun challenge.
“The Gibson was still in all of its 1973 blue and brown glory,” Jody jokes, “with its original brown paneling, blue plush carpeting and blue/brown window treatments!”
After gutting the Gibson, the Choders painted the paneling white, put in a new kitchen and flooring, and added “new everything!” The Nautaline had already been remodeled so it didn’t require as much gutting, but Jody went through and redecorated the Nautaline with a bohemian flare so it would fit its new name, Boho.
After all, despite being new houseboat owners, they did hear about the christening ceremony tradition to prevent aggravating the gods. They made a big party out of it, inviting friends to join in as Boho and Namaste were properly christened.
“It was tons of fun,” Jody says. “We have a couple of very creative friends and they did a great job of organizing a ceremony for us and everybody participated and it was just great fun.”
Now that both houseboats were in shipshape and properly christened, the Choders were ready to start inviting their first guests of the summer onboard.
What is the experience like? A set rental fee of $175 a night gets you the whole houseboat to yourself and access to the property—swimming pool, hot tub, meditation hut, fire pit and all.
Each houseboat comfortably sleeps four, but two per boat offers more privacy for those seeking it. Families of four stay onboard and find the space and privacy are perfect companions to the comfort experienced on the Nautaline.
After waking up from a gloriously restful night’s sleep on the water, Steve and Jody serve their guests breakfast—granola, yogurt, fruit, coffee, tea, juices and a baked good. For the guests who prefer to stay in the houseboat rather than come up to the house for breakfast, Jody will deliver it herself. The season runs from May to the beginning of November, when the bed and breakfast shuts down for the winter.
After their first successful summer with their own boats and bed and breakfast setup, Jody says they had a ton of fun and learned even more. And as they got more hosting experience under their belts, the Choders added a few changes according to guest feedback. Their guests tended to not like sleeping in the cuddy, so Jody and Steve converted the dining area into the new sleeping area so guests wouldn’t have to sleep below deck. They’re also ripping up the carpeting so they can put in cork flooring for a cleaner, fresher atmosphere.
In addition to inviting guests to spend the night on Namaste and Boho, Steve and Jody also host a fair share of events at Choderwood. Everything from pop-up yoga sessions to writer retreats and corporate getaways are hosted there.
And this season is already shining with promise. Business has already been great for the two of them, as they’ve had the pleasure of catering to guests from Mexico City to their own neighborhood. Newlyweds have kicked off their honeymoons onboard and one couple even celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary. Most surprising of all, Pittsburghers themselves make up about half of the guests. Jody and Steve nailed it in their hunch—the locals are keenly interested in using their bed and breakfast “staycation” to experience their city in an entirely new and unforgettable way.
Photos credited to Jody Noble-Choder